Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Naturally and Nutritionally Sweet!

We all naturally crave sweets - it's in us! I know a lot of people nowadays try to avoid sweets completely, thinking they can get away with it! But I will tell you what, this doesn't work because at some point your body will cave and you will be likely to binge (usually on the bad stuff like refined sugars and carbohydrates) and this creates a worse situation in your body than if you were to moderately consume some good quality sugars.

Sugars from fruits and starchy vegetables is the most natural way to consume sugar. If eaten in moderation and in season there are amazing benefits from a piece of fresh fruit or root veggies such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and energy. If you love fruit and tend to gravitate towards a piece more than 2 or 3 times a day, stick with the low sugar/non starchy fruits such as apples, berries, peaches, oranges, pears and kiwi's.

At this time of year the fruits and vegetables to get your sweet fix from are yams, sweet potatoes, squash, beets, apples, oranges, pomegranates, persimmons and grapefruit!

Then of course there are your deliciously available dried fruits (unsulphured of course- meaning not bright orange) apricots, figs, dates, goji berries, pears, apples etc...

Other sources of sugar come from grains starches. The stuff we want to stay away from includes the white and refined stuff. This includes white rice, white flour (bread, pasta, donuts, cakes, twinkies, cookies.) These foods quickly turn into simple sugars in your body and shoot your blood sugar up. Instead you want to select natural whole grains sources and complex carbohydrates. These come from grains like spelt, kamut, oats, barley, rye and the gluten free ones: quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, buckwheat and brown rice. Other sources of complex carbohydrates that give you long sustained energy are sweet potatoes, yams, squashes and any of the above mentioned root veggies.

So my advice to you is to become and informed shopper. Make sure to select products that are steer clear of white sugar, icing sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose and chemical sweetners containing aspartame. Instead look for items sweetened with maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, applesauce, dates or stevia.

It is not difficult to find things that are sweetened naturally with nutritional benefits, you just have to be conscious and aware and consume these items in moderation!
Here is a delicious recipes to satisfy those sweet cravings and make you feel good all over!
Date Almond Pudding
2 avocados
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 Medjool dates (soaked overnight or boiling water for 20-30 minutes)
2 tbsp of pure unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp almond butter or 1/2 cup raw almonds (soaked in water overnight for 8 hrs.)
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine the ingredients in a blender and whirl on high until well blended into a thick creamy pudding.
Divide the pudding into 2 servings

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Haven't you been waiting for the perfect program to get you started on a new path in healthy eating? Well I have created a program just for you!

A Whole Food Makeover Program - for six straight weeks starting Monday January 19th, I will guide you through a makeover that will change your life!

Whatever your health or weight goals may be for the new year, I have the knowledge to take you there!

Here is an outline of the program:

Monday January 19th and Monday January 26th
Cost $50.00 includes any 1 FREE cooking class (any free upcoming class)
In this introductory session I will kick start the workshop with information that will set a foundation for the rest of your life!
We will cover all the necessities. You will learn to become equipped with the tools, ingredients and skills that you will need in your kitchen in order to live a wholesome and long life!

HOW TO SHOP: Monday February 2nd
Cost: $65.00
Shopping time! I am going to guide you through Planet Organic. This will help you become an informed and healthy shopper. You will also be given a special gift to give your shopping bags a boost and keep your produce safe!

COOK WITH MARNI: Monday February 9th
Cost: $75
In this class I am going to cook with you! We are going to cook up some deliciously simple recipes that will make your cooking experiences more efficient. These nutritious and energizing recipes will also and make you feel great from the inside out!
You will also learn what to eat when you can't always cook - whether it's out for dinner or on vacation!

Cost: $65
In this session we will discuss how whole foods will make you look and feel great! We talk about which foods to consume and which foods to avoid make your skin and hair shine and keep your nails and bones strong! You will also be introduced to new ideas of how to give yourself your very own whole-food facials, scrubs and cleansers!

Eating whole foods, means living a whole life!

You can do the whole program for $250 (4 sessions) or take any course separately.

Email me right away to reserve your spot today!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Birthday Potluck Fiesta

There could not have been a better way to celebrate my 27th birthday, then to have my closest friends over for a potluck dinner. Everyone brought over something delicious to contribute to a collection of different dishes which made up our fantastic and unforgettable dinner!
One of my friends who was there this weekend was in from New York. I met her at The Natural Gourmet (the culinary school I attended last year). In fact her birthday is the same day as mine, November 11th - so it was a dual celebration! Together we spent a whole morning shopping for the prime ingredients of what would make up some of the creations of the evening.

We started our venture at the Brickworks Farmers Market in Midtown Toronto. What an amazing place! Fresh produce galore, wild mushrooms and rustic root vegetables. We definitely did not leave there empty handed. From there we made our way down to St. Lawrence Market, mainly just to look. However we did find some great organic produce and some organic kabocha squash which was transformed later into a Roasted-Spiced Squash Soup with Asian Pear. We then went across town to Kensington market and worked our way through the busy streets to the organic markets that had what we needed. I must say, Toronto made it very easy for us to come home with "re-usable" bags full of local and farm fresh ingredients.
Marti (yes her name is Marti) my New Yorker friend and I spent the rest of the day creating recipes from a pesto pizza's with goat cheese, fennel and figs to a green pea guacomole, to ginger snap cookies, to cashew cream covered carrot cake and of course the most delectable squash soup puree garnished with pomegranate seeds (as seen in the picture).
What made this whole evening so great, was having all my friends over to enjoy a delicious and colourful dinner full of variety and flavour. The meal included, delicious dips, a quinoa salad with purple cauliflower, cabbage salad with a cider vinaigrette, a wheat berry citrus salad with goji berries, brown rice sushi rolls, a goat cheese maple glazed pecan salad with raspberries and the rest of the creations that were catered by Marti and I. So all in all my friends pulled through to help make a well balanced and healthy dinner that had our belly's full by the second bite - not to mention the all organic wine that accompanied the meal!
So if you are looking for a fun and different way to celebrate- then have your crew over for a night of good conversation, healthy food and a birthday memory you will never forget!
Squash Soup With Asian Pear and Ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 kabocha squash halved
1 butternut squash halved and seeded
1 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 asian pears, peeled and chopped
8 cups water
pomegranate seeds or roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish.
Recipe inspired by Rebecca Katz's Cookbook "One bite at a Time"
Preheat oven at 425F
Line sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl whisk the allspice, cinnamon, salt and nutmet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brush the inside flesh of the squash with spice mixture and arrange the squash cut side down on the pan. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool.
While squash is roasteing, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the reserved spice mixture in pot over medium heat. Add teh onions and pinch of salt and cook until the onions turn a light golden brown. Add the shallots, saute for about 3 minutes and add teh ginger and pears. Continue to saute for another 3-5 minutes or until fruit softens and turns brown. As the mixture startes to stick to the bottom of the pot, deglaze with 1 cup of water. Loosen all the bits from the bottom for a great added flavor. Add 3 more cups of water and simmer.
When the squash has cooled, scoop the flesh into the onion fruit mixture. Mash the squash mixture with back of wooden spoon and add 4 more cups of water.
Gently simmer for another 15 minutes. Ladle soup into blender in small batches or use a hand blender and puree until smooth.

Whole Grain Goodness

When it comes to grains, it may take a while to sort through them!
There are so many to choose from! Different tastes, textures, colours and even shapes. But on a whole, all of them are composed of an amazing source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, b vitamins, trace proteins, minerals and even heart healthy fats that make you feel energized and nourished.

What needs to be recognized and understood by many, is that grains can be an essential part of everyones daily diet unless candida or carbohydrate metabolism is a problem. But when grains are left intact and prepared properly in their whole form - one requires much less of a portion to be satisfied. These grains are very different from eating a bowl of white pasta, white bread or white rice where you may need a few servings to fill that "hunger" void.
The natural fiber content whole grains also don't spike your blood sugar levels nearly as much and thus also contribute to feeling satiated for a longer period of time.

So the trick is to start simply. Select the grains that are most familiar and then go from there. Most people are accustomed to cooking rice, couscous and maybe even barley. With rice you want to find an organic brown rice. This can be either short grain, long grain or basmati (for simplicity sake). Couscous also exists in wheat counterparts, Spelt and Kamut (these are ancient forms of wheat that are left in their whole form and easier to digest). Also speaking of spelt and kamut, both of which can be cooked in their whole grain form as well...spelt is also known as Farro which comes from Italy. It is a wonderful addition or substution for a grain in any classic rice dish recipe!
As for barley, there are a few different types - but to start out I would go with a "pearled" form as it is easier to cook. Once you get hooked on grains and they become more familiar, get the whole barley which requires soaking and longer cooking and also has more fiber and nutrients intact.

Then comes the next level of grains which includes many gluten free options for those with digestive disturbances such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, crohns and something known as "leaky gut". These grains (almost seed-like) includes Quinoa, Amaranth, Teff, Millet and Wild Rice to name a few. Recipes for these divine gems can range from loafs, to pilafs, croquettes, soups, salads, cookies and pancakes. Many a cookbook exists on how to venture into the world of grains, including how to soak them, cook them, prepare them using a wide variety of ingredients. "The Splendid Grain" by Rebecca Wood is one in particular that makes cooking and learning about grains really easy and rather fascinating.

My overall advice, is to make sure you have some healthy whole grains on hand, stored properly (in a glass jar) in your cupboards, so that the next time you want a warming and nourishing bowl, side dish or breakfast of delicious goodness they are there and ready to go!

Warm Farro Foutash Salad

1 cup pearled farro (if the whole form then soak overnight)
1 cup vegetable stock
½ butternut squash, cubed
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup portabello mushrooms, chopped
1 cup rainbow chard, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sea salt
Dash of herb de provence
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup cranberries or currents
Crumbled goat cheese (optional)


Rinse and place farro into a pot with vegetable stock and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 hours.
Set aside farro.
Place cubed butternut squash on a baking tray with 1 tablespoons of olive oil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil with garlic over medium heat and add mushroom and sauté until softened.
Add spinach, sea salt, dry herbs and balsamic vinegar. Let sit to let the flavours combine for a few minutes.
Place cooked faro into a large bowl, add olive oil, and butternuts squash and onion, mushroom, spinach mixtures and stir everything in.Add pinenuts and crumbled goat cheese

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Gourmet Stagette

Six girls came over last night for a cooking frenzy in honour of one, who is on her way down the aisle. It was as good as an evening can get with out expensive cocktails, an overpriced meal and bar hopping all over town. It was a evening in style where everyone learned how to cook some tasty recipes. Not only were all the recipes seasonally structured, but they were also great dishes to get a head start with for a new life as a couple. Everyone teamed up with great effort to make zesty appetizers like guacamole, mango rice paper wraps, pomegranate salad, then came the entree a parchment wrapped wild salmon and quinoa pilaf but the voted favourite was the roasted root vegetables with a cinnamon glaze (recipe below).

It really is a unique and rather entertaining option to customize a night of all-girl-fun and learn how to cook before you enter into holy matremony. Why not learn what it takes to make to most delicious (and might I add healthy meals) for your honey without fret.

My goal in my classes is to make it easy for you. You will learn the necessary skills without the fuss and become a Gourmet Girl in less than three hours. All you need is a few great recipes to get your new life on the right foot. Whether you are familiar in the kitchen, or holding a knife is a new skill in itself why not learn how to cook in style with a little (cooking) class.

Seasonal Roasted Root Vegetables


4 cups red beets, cut in quarter or small wedges
4 carrots sliced
1 butternut squash
1 zucchini
2 turnips or parsnips
2 yams

2 tbsp maple syrup
2 ½ tbsp orange juice
2 cloves garlic
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp paprika
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tamari

Preheat oven to 350°C

Prepare the sauce by mixing all of the ingredients in a jar and shaking well. Set aside.
Clean and slice all of the vegetables then place them in a large baking dish or baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Pour the sauce over top and stir all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Place the pan in a preheated oven and bake for 45-55 minutes. Stir the vegetables and few times while baking to be sure that they are coated with sauce and cook evenly.
Remove from oven and serve hot.